Some of my earliest memories of visits to Amish farmsteads involve rhubarb. Rhubarb is easy to grow in a garden and can be used in so many different ways that it is almost a “requirement” for an Amish garden.
Visitors to an Amish farmhouse kitchen during the summer are often greeted with the pleasant aroma of a rhubarb pie or cobbler, which are both commonly on hand for a quick dessert.
🥬 Is Rhubarb a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Rhubarb is a versatile vegetable – yes, it is a veggie - that can be used in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. Here are a few of the ways the Amish use rhubarb:
- Sweet: Rhubarb is a classic ingredient in pies, cobblers, crumbles, and other desserts. It can also be used to make jams, jellies, and competes. And many a piece of rhubarb cobbler or pie is topped with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream, an amazing combination.
- Savory: Rhubarb can be used to make chutneys, relishes, and salsas. It can also be added to soups, stews, and stir-fries.
- Drinks: Rhubarb can be used to make juice, smoothies, and cocktails. It can also be used to make rhubarb vinegar and rhubarb beer. I remember visiting an Amish woman once who had a cold pitcher of rhubarb juice in the ice box and pour me a glass. So good!
🩺 Does Rhubarb Have Any Medicinal Value?
There are "Amish herbalists" out there, community members who have been schooled and steeped in the remedies and ways of herbs and plants. Much of the knowledge is passed down through the generations and has not been scientifically tested. But rhubarb has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments. It is thought to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and digestive properties, so many ailing, arthritic or elderly Amish incorporate rhubarb into their diets. Some of the specific health benefits of rhubarb include:
- May help to reduce inflammation: Rhubarb contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds may help to reduce inflammation in the body, which can contribute to a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
- May help to boost the immune system: Rhubarb is a good source of antioxidants, which are nutrients that help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases.
- May help to improve digestion: Rhubarb is a good source of fiber, which is essential for digestive health. Fiber helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly and can help to prevent constipation.
- May help to lower cholesterol: Rhubarb is a good source of soluble fiber, which can help to lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and helps to remove it from the body.
- May help to protect against cancer: Rhubarb contains compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds may help to protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of cancer, but this is not proven. A 2007 National Institutes of Health study did tout the potential benefits.
It is important to note that rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so only the stalks should be eaten. Rhubarb should also be consumed in moderation, as it contains oxalic acid, which can be harmful in large amounts.
👨🍳 Rhubarb in Recipes
But the main way the Amish use rhubarb is in recipes: cobblers, stews, soups, jams, and on and on.
Here are some specific recipes that you can try:
- Rhubarb Pie: This classic dessert is a delicious way to enjoy rhubarb. Strawberry-rhubarb pie is a popular pie because the sweet strawberries temper the tart of the rhubarb. Rhubarb Cream Pie is also popular.
- Rhubarb Crumble: this is a super good, easy dessert!
- Rhubarb Jam: This jam is a great way to preserve rhubarb for later in the year.
- Rhubarb Coffeecake: I've never met a coffeecake I didn't like and this is one of them!
- Rhubarb Soup: This soup is a light and refreshing way to enjoy rhubarb.
- Rhubarb Pudding is another delicious one!
No matter how you choose to use it, rhubarb is a delicious and versatile vegetable that can add a touch of springtime flavor to any dish. Rhubarb is one of those early spring garden goodies.